Charlotte’s Story:  I am no longer angry at 13 year old me, she wasn’t to blame for the abuse. He was.

Charlotte’s Story: I am no longer angry at 13 year old me, she wasn’t to blame for the abuse. He was.

I’m staring at this screen not knowing how to express myself. To explain how my world has fallen apart, to put down on paper to make people understand the feelings of guilt, helplessness, and rejection that one letter can cause.

You see, I was raped. It took me a long time to realise this and I’m talking years. 8 years to be exact. I was 13 years old, he was 33. I thought it was love. It was anything but. It was the exploitation of a naive 13 year old girl who wanted attention, who desperately wanted someone to love her. He took advantage of that and caused more damage than I ever realised one person could cause. Damage that has affected the way I view myself, the way I view sex, relationships and men, the way I view life.

The realisation that I was raped hit me like a tonne of bricks. I couldn’t breathe when I’d put together those jigsaw pieces. Now, people wonder how did I not know. The answer to that is I didn’t want to admit it. I was living in blissful ignorance, thinking that it was a “healthy” relationship, however; that’s pretty hard to carry on doing when you trained to be a social worker. Child sexual exploitation is everywhere. I couldn’t keep telling myself that what he did to me was normal when I was being told all the time that it was wrong. That it shouldn’t happen. That’s when I realised it shouldn’t have happened to me. At that point the rose tinted glasses fell off. I was now viewing that time off my life in a way I never had before and it was traumatising. Although it had happened 8 years ago I felt like I was living through it there and then. The doctors call it PTSD. I wanted to scream at 13 year old me. Does she not know what she’s done. The damage that she is now causing me. I felt sick, I felt numb, I felt violated, I felt stupid. How did I let it happen? I was very angry at 13 year old me for letting it happen, for somehow not knowing that this was going to affect her in ways that she couldn’t predict, ways that she didn’t know at that time in her life. I was angry that I had told myself I wanted it. I was angry that I had only said NO the one time. I was angry that I didn’t fight him, I let him do it. I was angry that i let it happen more than once. I was angry for being so stupid.

Once I had put those pieces together I confided in someone. My manager, I was struggling working on a case where the teenage girl was similar to how I was in many ways. My manager then asked if I had considered reporting it. I hadn’t. That thought had never crossed my mind. And with the benefit of hindsight I wish it never had. I did report it, and I regret it. The police and court process was a thousand times worse than anything HE did to me. It was re-traumatising, it lasted 2 years and in the end they didn’t even charge him. I’m sat here now with the letter from the CPS telling me that my appeal against the original decision not to charge will not be upheld. That although they believe me, all evidence is circumstantial. That although they believe me, and that they have right man – I know they have the right man, my identification was not good enough. I didn’t say with absolute certainty that it was him. A decision that I now regret.

You see, I did point out the “suspect”, I did say I recognised him but in that moment I had what I can only describe as a brain freeze. In front of me was the man I hadn’t seen in 8 years. The man that took my virginity. The man that I thought I loved. In that moment I wondered what I was doing – he had loved me as well right? In that moment I was once again that naive 13 year girl, that I said I couldn’t be sure it was definitely him. A lie. I knew it was him and said this later but in the eyes of law it was too late. They couldn’t possibly ask a jury to convict on the basis of that identification. A decision the investigating police officer disagreed with. A decision I appealed twice. Not that it mattered, he won’t be charged. The CPS had made their mind up. He has got away with it. I imagine he is exploiting another teenage girl as I am writing this. I wouldn’t have been the only one. There would have been plenty before me and there would have been plenty more after me. There will be plenty more still. He is a sexual predator. He won’t stop. I tried my best to stop him, and it destroyed me in the process. I now have to be okay with never feeling okay again. All I have now is this letter from the CPS saying that they know I will be “disappointed” with this outcome. A statement that is laughable. I’ll never be able to fully explain how this has made me feel, but i do know it’s something beyond disappointment.

My experience has taught me that there is something wrong with our system. A system where a victim is re-traumatised. Forced to relive the worst thing that has ever happened to them. Forced to wait months, even years for an outcome. Living in limbo with this hanging over you is something nobody should experience if it can be avoided. We have a system where victims need to prove the perpetrators are guilty. A system where the statistics on sexual assault convictions are low. A system that has left me feeling deflated, defeated and rejected. A system where a rapist has walked free. I don’t have the answers about to how to change it, but I am certain that it does need to change.

I now have to get on with my life. Somehow pick up the pieces of my shattered soul that I laid bare in order to try and get justice.

I try and look at the positives and the one thing I have taken away from all this though is the knowledge that it wasn’t my fault. I am no longer angry at 13 year old me, she wasn’t to blame for the abuse. He was.



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